I want to talk about a something I like to call “food freedom”. I have been at this fitness thing for a few years now, but I did what many people preached and followed religiously – worked hard at the gym all week while restricting what I ate and then treated myself to a “well-deserved” cheat meal. I believed I was following all the rules and yet, I was not getting the results I worked so hard to achieve. I recently took a step back and really looked at this type of behavior and how it was affecting body.
What I found was that I restricted myself so much during the week that once the weekend hit I became a kid in a candy store. Those cheat meals turned into cheat days, which sometimes lasted the entire weekend. I found myself going overboard because I felt this was my only chance to have some relief from the everyday Tupperware of grilled chicken and vegatables. Not only was I binging two days straight, but come Monday I was filled with guilt, disappointment and was too tired to workout, because I ate nothing but fatty, fried and sugary foods for the past 48 hours. It became a vicious cycle -stick to my plan for five days, go off the rails for two and then pout in the corner about why my body was not changing as I had hoped.
The picture you see is my transformation after discovering the magical powers of food freedom. The left was taken last year and the right is me now. By finding this new balance, I have stopped restricting myself from foods I love, which in turn has helped me learn discipline with them. Now if I want to eat a cookie, you bet you’re a#$ I am going to and if I want to snack on a few French fries, I don’t think twice about. Having a few treats here and there is not going to ruin the work I put in at they gym, it was devouring an entire pizza that was killing my progress. Because I no longer have a list of forbidden foods, I am able to enjoy food without losing control -which has also eliminated the need and want for cheat meals.
I have also realized that I never really enjoyed cheat meals, I just ate them because I was not allowed to during the week – we all want what we can’t have. The word “cheat” is surrounded with negativeness. When we cheat on a significant other or a test, we feel like a bad person. At the time, these things may bring you some joy (I am not here to judge either), but after the dust settles, we feel guilt and shame. And those who partake in their ritual weekend cheat meal usually feel just that – I know I did.
In the end, restricting only made me unhappy, sabotaged the work I put in at the gym and created an unhealthy relationship with food. I thought I was working towards physical goals during the week, but in fact, all I was thinking about was that weekend binge fest. But with balance, there is no timeline or set schedule for when you treat yourself. YOU choose the food you eat, which will be healthy foods 90 percent of the time. You condition your body to want these foods, because again, you always want what you can’t have, but since you have food freedom you won’t have the desire for things that will hinder your progress.
Since shifting paths, I have seen a major change in my body. I have been able to obtain the sought after abs and muscles have sprouted that I did not even know existed. But the best part is I no longer shame myself for eating certain foods, nor do I crave them. Fitness is not just about improving your physique, it is also a way to better yourself mentally. It’s a lifestyle, a commitment and if you are miserable during the journey, you will also be miserable with your results.